Joan Miro © Succession Miró/VBK,
Françoise Gilot, herself an artist, passes on an interesting conversation she once had in the forties on Miró with Picasso: "When we viewed his safes at the B.N.C.I., Pablo showed me some early Mirós — the self-portrait everybody knows, a version of the 'Ferme' (Hemingway had another one) and a 'Catalan farmer's wife' […]. Even when loving Miró, you could not say this was the work of a visionary, as is for instance Paul Klee's. Pablo laughed. 'You are right. Miró has taken to putting on the disguise of a little boy running after a hoop too long ago.'" What is worth mentioning in this dialogue is not so much the fact that Picasso owned some pre-surrealistic pictures by Miró, but the accurate comparison with Paul Klee, whom Miró, though he never met him personally, admired as an example; and also the slightly disparaging remark at the end on him having worn for too long the disguise of a playing little boy. Picasso, whose artistic principle was the break in style, could not appreciate the continuity in Miró's work. The latter's art, which indeed sometimes is suggestive of children's paintings, was no trick.
The artists in Paris were very worried by the course of the Spanish civil war, cause of Miró's exile in Paris from 1936 to 1940, and, in the first place, by the fall of the republic in 1937. Quite a few of them, like the American writer Hemingway, fought on the side of the republican troops. Picasso and Miró brought their art to bear for a 'free' Spain, creating important contributions for the Spanish pavilion at the 1937 world exhibition in Paris: the former with his monumental accusation Guernica, and the latter with his picture The Reaper (missing), calling for resistance. The work of another surrealist shows how much the artists were dismayed by the downfall of the republic: the Hausengel by Max Ernst (Munich, State Gallery) represents "a kind of clod which destroys and annihilates everything that crosses its path". In Miró's Oiseaux et insectes, it is not the culprit who is in the centre, as is the case with Ernst, but the victim: the plucked bird, threatened by grinning insects is a symbol of endangered freedom.